Hedges deleted e-mail at crux of Neuheisel's case

KENT, Wash. -- Former Washington athletic director Barbara
Hedges, testifying in the trial of former football coach Rick
Neuheisel's unfair dismissal lawsuit, angrily defended her 2003
advice to Neuheisel about a possible job with the San Francisco
Hedges insisted she told her then-coach "to think about it"
during a family vacation and then tell her if he planned to pursue
the NFL opening.
Neuheisel's lawyer, Bob Sulkin, asked Hedges if she had advised
Neuheisel "to work things out." Such words, he suggested, would
indicate Hedges knew the coach was going to interview with the NFL
team in February 2003.
"I did not," Hedges testified Tuesday, her voice rising. "I
told Rick Neuheisel to think about it."
Neuheisel has sued the university and NCAA, contending he was
unfairly fired as Washington's coach and that the NCAA pressured
the school to dismiss him. Testimony in his King County Superior
Court trial began Monday.
The 49ers issue is key because university administrators contend
Neuheisel lied about his interest in the job and didn't tell Hedges
before traveling to San Francisco for a job interview. After that,
Hedges said Neuheisel was warned privately that additional lies
wouldn't be tolerated.
When he was fired four months later, in June 2003, Hedges said
Neuheisel wasn't forthcoming when initially questioned by NCAA
investigators who were looking into his high-stakes gambling on
NCAA basketball.
University lawyer Lou Peterson earlier told jurors the coach's
contract allowed him to be fired for acts of dishonesty.
Sulkin showed jurors a paragraph in Neuheisel's contract,
stating he was required to inform supervisors before interviewing
for jobs with "other schools."
"He wasn't obligated under the contract with regard to
professional teams," Hedges testified. "But as an employee of the
University of Washington, I believe he was obligated to notify us
for any other jobs."
Hedges admitted the contract language was changed when Keith
Gilbertson succeeded Neuheisel as coach. In his contract,
Gilbertson was required to notify Hedges before interviewing for
"other coaching positions."
"It was corrected in his contract," Hedges said.
"You got it right?" Sulkin asked.
"We got it right," she answered.
Sulkin asked Hedges about a quote attributed to her in a Seattle
newspaper -- that she had asked Neuheisel "to work things out"
regarding the 49ers job during a vacation in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Hedges said she was misquoted. She testified that Neuheisel said
only that he had been approached about the job by a third party.
"As far as I knew, Rick Neuheisel had not been contacted by the
49ers and had shown very little interest in the job," Hedges said,
adding that she knew Neuheisel was going to Idaho on vacation.
"I told Rick, 'Go to Sun Valley and think about it, and we'll
talk about it on Monday,"' she testified.
While he was away, Neuheisel interviewed in San Francisco.
After returning to Seattle, Neuheisel insisted he wasn't a
candidate and even issued a university news release denying
interest. Later that week, he admitted he had lied, saying he had
to honor a confidentiality agreement with the NFL team.
Sulkin also questioned Hedges about an e-mail issued by
Washington's former compliance director, Dana Richardson, that
mistakenly authorized gambling by athletic department employees in
NCAA basketball pools.
NCAA rules prohibit gambling by athletes, coaches and athletic
department staffers and member schools.
Hedges admitted she didn't read the e-mail when it first was
distributed on March 13, 2003. The memo, a cornerstone of
Neuheisel's lawsuit, went to the entire Washington athletic staff.
Hedges testified she deleted it after glancing at the headline,
"Reminder about NCAA rules on gambling."
Jurors were shown the text, which reads: "The bottom line is if
you have friends outside ICA (intercollegiate athletics) ... you
can participate. You cannot place a bet with a bookie or organize
your own pool."
Asked by Sulkin why she deleted the e-mail, Hedges replied: "I
know very clearly the rules. You cannot in any way place bets on
college athletics. I looked at it. I deleted it."
The memo resurfaced on June 5, 2003, one day after Neuheisel was
questioned by NCAA investigators. Hedges said her secretary handed
her a copy of the e-mail, and she testified it was the first time
she read the full text.
Hedges said she immediately called Washington's then-faculty
athletic representative, Rob Aronson, who advised that the memo was
issued concerning small-stakes NCAA pools.
After that discussion, Hedges said she didn't believe the memo
applied to Neuheisel's gambling. He won $18,523 in 2002 and 2003 in
an auction-style pool with neighbors.
Neuheisel was recently hired by the NFL's Baltimore Ravens as
quarterbacks coach.